Another sharps injury

Needle with drop of bloodA New Castle, Pennsylvania police officer accidentally punctured his thumb with a needle allegedly used by a man to inject heroin.

Police had been called to a man who was on the ground in the park but when they arrived the man refused help and walked away.

Fire department personnel informed the responding officer of a hypodermic needle with suspected heroin residue that was on the grass near where Park had been lying. The officer picked up the needle to discard it and as he tried to cap it, it went through the cap and punctured his thumb.

This is obviously a devastating injury for the policeman, but does suggest a lack of common sense. Picking up the needle may have been the obvious thing to do, to retain evidence perhaps, r simply to prevent injury to others. But without suitable puncture resistant gloves, or some tool such as forceps, then the risk increases. And trying to recap the needle is a recipe for disaster.

And disaster did occur.  Recapping of needles has long been abandoned in healthcare. It is a manoeuvre that is prone to sharps injury in the contralateral hand and once prohibited those vast number of sharps injuries fall in number dramatically.

Obviously, that important safety message hasn’t spread far outside the healthcare arena.

And yet recapping of needles might protect. Safety engineered needles rather does away with the problem – if those safety needles are activated by the user before discard – but these are not yet in universal use. No needle exchange services are yet using safety engineered needles since they are marginally more expensive and take some time to learn the new look and feel in order to be proficient in safe injection, and disposal, practice.

And few diabetics are using them. Many will be moving to insulin pens but there are still millions of insulin needles used without safety devices, justified by cost and the need for training that is simply far too resource intensive to consider.

Until that changes, discarded or wrongly packaged or dropped needles spilled form an improperly closed sharps bin are going to be uncapped. For the unwary, that accidental needlestick might be devastating.







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